Iowa House Democratic Leaders Set Out Priorities Ahead Of 2021 Legislative Session
Iowa House Democratic leaders say their first priority for the next legislative session is to help get the state through the pandemic.
House Minority Leader Todd Prichard, D-Charles City, said that could include using some of the $305 million budget surplus to help prevent Iowans from getting evicted or losing their businesses.
“Why would we sit on our hands when we have the ability to help businesses survive the pandemic?” Prichard asked. “We shouldn’t be doing that. We’re absolutely open to the discussion of a relief or aid package to people affected by COVID.”
Prichard said the budget surplus is money that’s readily available, unlike rainy day funds that would have to be paid back. Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds said Tuesday she is looking at what the new federal relief package will do for the state, and may talk with lawmakers about addressing any gaps during the legislative session.
Prichard is also calling for more transparency in the state’s pandemic response.
“There are some questions that have been raised as far as how CARES money has been used,” Prichard said. “There’s questions about the rollout of the vaccine.”
Prichard and House Minority Whip Jennifer Konfrst, D-Windsor Heights, also say the Republican-controlled Iowa Legislature needs to act in 2021 to provide sustainable funding for the adult mental health system, and fund the newer children’s mental health system.
Konfrst said “the devil is in the details” of how that will be done.
“I know that mental health is worse than ever,” Konfrst said. “I hear from practitioners all the time. We are not at a point where we have the luxury of sitting back and saying, ‘Well, we’ll fix it next year.’ Something has to be done this year to address children’s and adult mental health.”
Prichard said he would also like to see progress on expanding access to child care, something House Republicans say they plan to work on again next year.
The 2021 legislative session is scheduled to begin Jan. 11.